What is exotropia?
The types of exotropia
There are several types of exotropia:
- Sensory exotropia: This is when the eye’s outward direction is caused by a person’s low vision. In this type of exotropia, the eyes fail to work in coordination.⁴
- Congenital exotropia: This is also referred to as infantile exotropia, as it usually affects infants immediately after birth, or a few months after birth.⁵
- Acquired exotropia: This type of exotropia can occur after the eye suffers a traumatic eye injury or disease. Down’s syndrome or a stroke can also be contributing factors.⁶
- Intermittent exotropia: As the name suggests, this is when exotropia occurs intermittently. With intermittent exotropia, one or both eyes look in an outward direction only when the person is ill or tired, or when they are looking into the distance (intermittent distance exotropia). The rest of the time their eyes are aligned straight (as normal).⁷
- Alternating exotropia: This is when the left and right eyes take turns to look outwards.
How is exotropia diagnosed?
Exotropia can be easy to spot, but proper diagnosis is carried out by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist. He or she will inquire about a person’s family history, as well as whether or not the person has additional health conditions, in order to determine which type of exotropia it is and advise on the right course of treatment. If you suspect you or your child has exotropia, eye tests will give you a definitive answer.
Your optometrist will carry out an eye examination that includes:⁸
- Asking you to read letters from a chart to see how well you see (visual acuity)
- Placing a variety of lenses in front of your eyes to determine what prescription might be needed to correct blurred or distorted vision (refraction)
- An examination of your outer and inner ocular health
How is exotropia treated?
Exotropia treatment depends on the severity of the misaligned eye.
If the eye is not entirely misaligned, and occasionally moves outward, the optometrist may simply suggest glasses or contact lenses to limit the eye’s movement. If, however, the eye is continuously moving in an outward direction, exotropia surgery may be required to correct and align the eyes.⁹,¹⁰
Medically reviewed by Dan McGhee on September 29, 2022